Last updated: 19 September 2012
The regiment was formed in 1881 by amalgamating the 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot and the 89th (Princess Victoria’s) Regiment of Foot. Originally named The Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers), its title changed to the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria’s) in 1920.
In England at the time of the merger, the 87th Foot became 1st Battalion and saw action in the Egyptian campaign the following year. In 1883 1st Battalion moved to India, remaining there for 16 years.
The 89th Foot was in India when the amalgamation occurred and became the new unit’s 2nd Battalion and only returned to Britain in 1884, via the Sudan. In 1889 Queen Victoria presented new colours to the 2nd Battalion. She had presented them with colours twice before, when it was still the 89th Foot.
1st Battalion sent detachments to the Gold Coast in 1895 and to the Sudan in 1898, but in 1899 both the regiment’s regular battalions deployed to the Boer War (1899-1902). 1st Battalion was back in Britain well before the outbreak of World War One, deploying to the Western Front in August 1914 and remaining there right up to the Armistice.
2nd Battalion joined 1st Battalion there in December 1914, moving from India, where it had been since 1902. 2nd Battalion was then sent to Salonika in November 1915 and Palestine in October 1917, before being disbanded in 1919.
The regiment also fought against the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and raised six New Army battalions during the conflict, including 5th and 6th (Service) Battalions, which landed at Gallipoli in 1915.
Since its inception, the regiment had been the county unit for the three Irish counties of Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan. The last two of these became part of the Free State in 1922, but Armagh was in Northern Ireland and so the regiment survived. For 13 years (1924-1937) the regiment formed a single corps with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, though both retained their regimental identities and titles.
The regiment spent the inter-war years in Egypt, England, India and Sudan and re-formed a 2nd Battalion in 1938 to serve in Egypt and on Malta. 1st Battalion was on Guernsey on the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, but was withdrawn to Britain in May the following year, going on to fight in Tunisia and Italy later in the war.
2nd Battalion was captured in the failed attempt to capture the Greek island of Leros in 1943. The 6th Battalion was re-numbered 2nd Battalion to replace it, but was mainly stationed in Britain for the rest of the war and disbanded in 1948.
The regiment moved to Jordan in 1949, West Germany the following year and Libya in 1958. However, its most significant post-war postings were to Korea in 1954 and to fight against the Mau Mau in Kenya in 1955.
In 1966 the regiment moved to England, sending detachments from there to Swaziland and Aden before being amalgamated with the two other regular infantry regiments of Northern Ireland to form the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968.